County health surveyors may be calling

"If you routinely hang up on telemarketers, you might want to fight that urge for the next few weeks. Especially if they're calling from the Gillmore Research firm. Every year, more than a million people in the United States die because of personal health behaviors - the choices people make that affect their health. Gillmore Research will be conducting a telephone survey this month to gauge the health behaviors and habits of Island County adults. Called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, or BRFSS (sounds like burfus), the 20-minute phone survey was developed by the Centers for Disease Control.The risky health behaviors include the usual suspects - drinking, smoking, avoiding exercise or preventative health exams. But it can also include things like leaving loaded guns in the house, drinking well water that hasn't been recently tested or not wearing a helmet while bicycling.The point of the survey is to help local health department officials, doctors and other health professionals identify priority health issues and develop strategic plans for managing them, said Island County Health Officer Roger Case.It's extremely important to get this information, Case said. Just as a physician needs to get information from a patient, the public health arena needs to query the public as to what concerns they have.This will be the second time Island County residents have been polled about their health. The first BURFSS study was completed in 1996, and that's another reason participating in this one is so important, Case added.The first study was good, he said. But a followup is key so we can see trends.In the first study researches found that, on average, Island County residents smoked more cigarettes and drank more alcohol compared to the rest of the state. Among smokers, 78 percent of those polled in Island County smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day, compared to 69 percent state-wide.And 15.8 percent of Island County residents said they'd had more than five drinks at least once in a 30-day period, compared to 13.6 percent state-wide.The Health Department took the results from the '96 survey to different community groups and service organizations and together developed a list of ways to address them.The biggest concern was supporting the health of the area's young people. As a result, the Partnership With Youth Program received more attention and support, as did other support agencies for young people.Results from the 2000 BURFSS survey will also help agencies write grants and seek funding, said Carrie McLachlan, a public health coordinator with the Island County Health Department.One in three households in Island County will probably be receiving calls for the BURFSS survey, McLachlan said, adding that she hoped residents would be receptive to the BURFSS surveyors.It's difficult to do these phone surveys due to the increased intrusion by telemarketers, she said. But this is really our only avenue to collect comprehensive health data on the populations we are trying to serve.The BURFSS survey will be conducted in two stages. The first will begin around Aug. 20. The second will be conducted in November.Results from the two surveys should be available by the spring of 2001."

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